Why are some sales teams successful and others not--even in the same company? The reasons can be marketing, customer density in a territory, product selection, or the competition. All of these are legitimate factors. However, in many cases, it's the quality of coaching by the sales leader. In fact, I've seen mediocre salespeople flourish because of the quality of coaching by their sales manager. Likewise, ineffective sales managers tend to make repeated mistakes that prevent their sales team from consistently achieving their sales goals--and placing a greater burden on themselves.

Here are the seven mistakes to avoid:

  1. Saving the sale. Watching sales reps lose a sale is painful. There's no doubt, saving a sale feels good. It affirms you're personal selling skills. And it's quite easy to justify since your company needs the revenue. However, you're not doing your sales rep or your company any favors if this is a common practice. Painful as it is, unless your stated purpose is to be the "big gun" and close the deal, avoid the temptation to step in. If not, you create a never-ending cycle of dependence because your sales rep won't learn to complete sales on their own.
  1. Failing to define who does what on a sales call. Determine roles and responsibilities before the appointment. The rep leads and you observe. You lead and your rep observes. Your sales rep makes the presentation and you facilitate any negotiations. Ultimately, you want to observe your sales rep executing the sales process in order to coach them to improve performance.
  1. Over-coaching. The time before a sales call can be quite useful for practice or review. Avoid attempting to teach your rep a lot of new concepts that you haven't trained or coached them on previously. They most likely won't remember what you said; at worst, you'll confuse them and they'll fall apart during the sales call. If you haven't sufficiently prepared them for the sales appointment, it's too late now.
  1. Increasing pressure with quota. In many cases, your presence on a sales call makes your rep nervous. Don't make it worse by commenting about their quota riding on this particular sale, joking or not. Avoid adding unnecessary pressure on your sales rep, even if you're getting it from your boss.
  1. Reacting instead of responding to mistakes. It's inevitable, your rep will make mistakes. Accept it--they're human. Don't react emotionally in the moment if they slip up. Instead, respond with redirection. Make a plan with your sales rep using key words that communicate to them how to get back on track during a sales call. When (not if) your rep makes a reasonable mistake, make a note of it and deal with it later.
  1. Relying on memory. Always document what your rep does on a sales appointment. Keep a record of their execution of the steps (intro, questions, qualifying, presentation, etc.). This ensures accurate recall of the events so you coach to the call later that day or during your next one-on-one session. You won't remember everything, so make reference notes, especially if your rep disagrees with your assessment during your coaching session.
  1. Coaching "everything". It's easy to overwhelm a sales rep with coaching points. Avoid the extended laundry list of everything they could have done better. Rather, be patient. Select a few of the biggest issues that you want them to improve. You can address the smaller items later.

Doing a ride-along requires preparation, observation, and debriefing. That's a fundamental commitment for any sales manager who desires to be successful. Being aware of these seven mistakes will help you make the most out of your next coaching call.